Topic: Groundwater



Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground, though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.

Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater.

A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Stanford fellow delivers hope for Monterey County water collaboration

Could the limited successes in bringing together disparate water interests in the San Joaquin Valley be a model for a collaborative solution to the water woes facing Monterey County? Local elected officials on Tuesday listened to an architect of such an effort in the neighboring valley in hopes that the growing loggerheads over securing additional, permanent water sources in Monterey County can be alleviated…. the Board of Supervisors invited Tim Quinn, a Stanford University Landreth Visiting Fellow and past president of the Association of California Water Agencies, to brief them on the work he and colleagues have put in to bring farmers, environmentalists, social justice advocates, governments and water agencies together…. 

Aquafornia news Hanford Sentinel

Kings County adopts groundwater export ordinance

Despite opposition from an impressive who’s-who list of water districts and agencies and the Kings County Farm Bureau, the Kings County Board of Supervisors on a 3-2 vote adopted a groundwater export ordinance that will require a permit to move groundwater out of the county. Leading the charge was Supervisor and farmer Doug Verboon, who says the passage came after 12 years of battling to adopt an ordinance here to protect local groundwater, an ordinance that most counties already have. The county’s aim is to preserve groundwater for local use, critical for both domestic, city, military and agricultural users. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California water wells are drying up in record numbers

For almost four decades, water flowed faithfully from Fred and Robin Imfeld’s private well here in rural Tehama County, a region where thirsty orchards of walnuts, almonds, plums and olives stretch across thousands of acres. But that reliable supply of household water began to sputter last year, and then ceased completely this summer amid California’s driest three-year period on record. … Across California, domestic wells are drying up in record numbers due to severe drought and the overpumping of underground aquifers. The crisis has hit rural farming areas particularly hard and left some families to fend for themselves or wait years for permanent solutions as nonprofits, state water officials and well drillers struggle with a growing backlog of assistance requests.

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Aquafornia news Pleasanton Weekly

Zone 7 to present updates on PFAS treatment, water supply, rates to Pleasanton council

Zone 7 Water Agency staff are set to update the Pleasanton City Council on Tuesday about its regional groundwater modeling and PFAS contamination, which will serve as foundational information in future council decision-making on water supply issues. City staff will also seek approval from council to keep the city’s wells 5 and 6 offline and to purchase replacement water from Zone 7 until a water supply alternatives study is completed and the council can decide what to do about the city’s long-term water supply. According to the staff report, “Zone 7 has indicated that it can provide the additional water, initially through a short-term arrangement. This cost would be funded by the Zone 7 pass-through to utility ratepayers.”

Aquafornia news National Geographic

Europe’s water crisis is much worse than we thought

As drought dried up rivers and reservoirs across Europe this year, grim warnings from the past surfaced from the depths. Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine, read the inscription on a “Hunger Stone” exposed on a bank of the River Elbe in the Czech Republic: “If you see me, then weep.” Still, as bad as the drought appeared on the surface, a new satellite analysis estimating freshwater availability in Europe shows that “what’s even worse is the groundwater story that people cannot see,” says the hydrologist Jay Famiglietti, director of the Global Institute for Water Security at Canada’s University of Saskatchewan. Famiglietti and collaborators analyzed two decades of data from the U.S./German satellite missions known as GRACE to find the rate of change in freshwater stored on the European continent. 

Aquafornia news ProPublica

The uranium industry continues to poison U.S. groundwater

In America’s rush to build the nuclear arsenal that won the Cold War, safety was sacrificed for speed. Uranium mills that helped fuel the weapons also dumped radioactive and toxic waste into rivers like the Cheyenne in South Dakota and the Animas in Colorado. … The U.S. government bankrolled the industry, and mining companies rushed to profit, building more than 50 mills and processing sites to refine uranium ore. But the government didn’t have a plan for the toxic byproducts of this nuclear assembly line. Some of the more than 250 million tons of toxic and radioactive detritus, known as tailings, scattered into nearby communities, some spilled into streams and some leaked into aquifers. … But the government has fallen down in addressing another lingering threat from the industry’s byproducts: widespread water pollution.

Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

An idea that could help replenish California’s groundwater supplies

When drought strikes, California farmers often pump water from underground aquifers to water their crops. But increasingly dry conditions are straining that resource. … [David Freyberg of Stanford University] says many people are looking at ways to replenish the state’s dwindling groundwater supplies. In California, a lot of water typically comes from winter snow that falls high in the mountains. During warmer months, that snow melts and trickles down to farmland. But as the climate warms, more precipitation is falling as rain instead of snow. So it rushes into rivers and runs past many areas where it’s needed.

Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Sustainable cattle ranching is a time-honored tradition at Date Creek Ranch in Arizona

Savannah Barteau dropped out of college to become a rancher nearly nine years ago. Now, the 26-year-old Flagstaff native runs the beef business at Date Creek Ranch outside Wickenburg with her husband.  … Date Creek Ranch still uses Knight’s grazing management techniques. It sells beef locally instead of transporting cattle out of state. It uses water from the creek instead of relying on groundwater or the Colorado River. The ranch’s herd is only 120 head because the fewer cattle on pastures, the better. In addition, Date Creek Ranch recently installed solar panels that provide power to structures on the property, irrigation and beef freezers.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Desert hikes are stunning, thanks to invisible waterways

I know a lot of people think of deserts as big, empty, lifeless wastelands — that’s one of the reasons it can be tough to get folks to care about protecting them. But when I moved to Southern California from New England, my desert enchantment was immediate and deep. One of the things that struck me most about exploring the deserts here was that the slower I went, the more I saw. … Take the Amargosa River, which flows for 185 miles and drains a 5,500-square-mile basin in Nevada and California before feeding the aquifer remnants of ancient Lake Manly in Death Valley. It’s the seventh-longest river in California, but you could be forgiven for not noticing it, since it spends almost all its time underground. Its water provides habitat for the improbable Devil’s Hole pupfish …
-Written by Casey Schreiner, a writer, producer, presenter and author who has taken over The Wild newsletter for the next few months. 

Aquafornia news San Diego Magazine

Old drought, new wines

Things are popping in Baja’s emerging wine scene. Earlier this century, there were only a dozen or so wineries. Now, there are almost 200. By all indications, Valle de Guadalupe is ready to take its place among the world-class gastronomic destinations. But, under the surface, there’s something larger lurking. “The big problem today is lack of water,” says Camillo Magoni, the 82-year-old winemaker of Casa Magoni, who’s worked 58 harvests in Baja. … San Diego County’s own winegrowers are also facing a water crisis. … With all the crises facing the world, some might dismiss the issue of growing grapes for premium wine to be a minor, bougie, first-world problem. But wine has always been a window into much larger farming issues.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State drought funding will help valley communities fix water problems faster

A handful of small valley communities will be able to move more rapidly on water projects thanks to millions in funding recently allocated by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) as part of its water resilience program. DWR awarded $86 million throughout the state. About $44 million of that will go to small communities facing water insecurity through the department’s Small Community Drought Relief Program.  The announcement of DWR’s ninth, and final, round of funding under this program comes as more than 1,400 wells have gone dry throughout the state this year, 369 of those in the San Joaquin Valley, according to the state’s dry well reporting system. The recently announced funding will help support five projects in the San Joaquin Valley.

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Aquafornia news Sonoma County Gazette

Deep dive: How is groundwater in Sonoma County used?

It is imperative more now than ever for residents of Sonoma County to be aware of exactly how our groundwater resources are being used. Understanding how much water is being pumped will enable actual protections for our residential users that are increasingly experiencing dry wells. In addition, knowledge of groundwater pumping from wells will also ensure that the important public trust resources we all hold dear are not adversely impacted. It is time for these harmful practices to come to an end. By challenging the County to fulfill their public trust obligations in a robust and transparent way, we can begin to rectify some of these past and ongoing harms, and bring our groundwater use in line with the increasing realities of climate change. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Kings Co. wants to block selling groundwater to Southern California. Will a new measure solve the problem?

Kings County Supervisors took a crack at a long-promised push to restrict the ability of swashbuckling Kings County farming giants to sell their groundwater to far-flung southern California locales. Tuesday, the Kings County Board of Supervisors approved the Groundwater Export Ordinance, which was initially conceived to reign-in major water players in the area, including water maven John Vidovich. Instead, based on lingering commentary from local farmers, it may only create additional red tape with the lack of teeth necessary to stop outsiders from buying up water rights for the express purpose of selling the resources to Southern California water agencies.

Aquafornia news The Santa Barbara Independent

Slippery Rock water not filling Montecito swimming pools

Rumors sometimes lead to news stories and sometimes not. In the case of Slippery Rock Ranch — TV mogul Dick Wolf’s property in the Goleta foothills — the gossip was that Montecito residents were filling their swimming pools with water from the ranch’s aquifers. While a publicist with the ranch stated last week that Slippery Rock was not selling water or filling Montecito swimming pools, the Goleta Water District confirmed that they quietly settled a long-simmering water dispute with the Law & Order creator in the sum of $10 million. In Santa Barbara Superior Court, Slippery Rock Ranch and the Goleta Water District had disputed since 2015 over possession of the rainwater sluicing off and infiltrating down under the ranch. The Water District pointed out that the ranch — 740 acres above the border of Los Padres National Forest — was in a watershed that contributed to the district’s Goleta Groundwater Basin. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Beavers returning to San Francisco Bay Area creeks and streams

In a deep muddy creek near Silicon Valley’s busiest freeway, a large furry head pokes up. And then quickly submerges. The brief sighting, along with a growing collection of video footage, confirms something remarkable: After being hunted to extinction in the 1800s, the North American beaver is returning to the creeks of the San Francisco Bay Area. Ecosystem explorers, beavers were re-introduced to Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos about four decades ago, and made homes in upper Los Gatos Creek. Since then, they’ve expanded their range north along the edge of the Bay to the Guadalupe River, Coyote Creek, San Tomas Aquino Creek in the wetlands by Sunnyvale’s Water Pollution Control Plant – and, now, Palo Alto’s Matadero Creek.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Lawsuit looms over tiny rare fish in drought-stricken West

Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delinquent decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week over the Fish Lake Valley tui chub near the California-Nevada line and the least chub in southwest Utah. Utah and Nevada are the driest states in the country, and the planned lawsuits are among the many fronts on which conservationists are battling water districts and the users they cater to over plans to siphon water to either maintain or expand consumption.

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Westlands boss Thomas Birmingham retiring after ‘change coalition’ elected to board

Thomas Birmingham, general manager of the massive Westlands Water District since 2000, Wednesday announced plans to step down at the end of 2022. His announcement follows the election of four new members to the Westlands Board of Directors on Nov. 8 who would give a so-called “change coalition” a solid majority of six seats on the nine-member board. The top priority for the coalition is “a change in leadership,” according to Sarah Woolf, who along with Jon Reiter helped coordinate a group of increasingly frustrated Westlands farmers to run the slate of change candidates, SJV Water reported. 

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Aquafornia news Gizmodo

Hundreds of Arizona households set to be without water by end of year

More than 500 households in the rural Arizona desert are set to be without running water starting January, 1 2023, as first reported by NBC News. The homes, located in Rio Verde Foothills—an affluent, unincorporated community in the state’s Maricopa County, were built without complying to Arizona’s usual 100-year water supply requirement. Rio Verde Foothills doesn’t have its own water system. Instead, people living in the arid locale rely on private wells or water trucked up from the nearby city of Scottsdale. However, in response to the ongoing and worsening megadrought, Scottsdale declared late last year that it would cease hauling water to communities outside the city limits on Jan 1, 2023 and encouraged Rio Verde Foothills to find an alternative. Now, with the set deadline fast approaching, residents haven’t found a solution.

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Agronomic minute: Potential of on-farm groundwater recharge

Drought conditions and the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) are putting a squeeze on California growers. Principal Analyst with the Almond Board of California, Jesse Roseman said efforts to improve statewide water storage and conveyance are underway. However, those are more long-term solutions to current water constraints. Implementing groundwater recharge projects in almond orchards presents a more immediate option for helping to address water issues in California. … Implementing groundwater recharge projects in orchards can require frequent communication with local irrigation districts and Groundwater Sustainability Agencies. Roseman explained that projects can often require new water rights, permits, and new conveyance. However, the efforts can prove exceptionally beneficial when surplus water is available.

Aquafornia news The Daily Independent

News release: ASU tapped to lead statewide water initiative

Arizona State University and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Nov. 16 that the university will lead a multi-year Arizona Water Innovation Initiative to provide immediate, actionable and evidence-based solutions to ensure that Arizona will continue to thrive with a secure future water supply, according to a news release.  Ducey has committed resources and has asked ASU to work with industrial, municipal, agricultural, tribal and international partners to rapidly accelerate and deploy new approaches and technology for water conversation, augmentation, desalination, efficiency, infrastructure, and reuse.

Aquafornia news Globe Newswire

News release: ACWA Fall Conference explores top California water issues

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Fall Conference & Exhibition Nov. 29-Dec. 1 will draw local water agency leaders from throughout California to Indian Wells for three days of updates, analyses and perspectives on multiple issues affecting the state’s water community. The event will also feature an international perspective on water management and connect attendees with a leader behind a movement to change policy priorities in addressing catastrophic wildfires. Delivering the Opening Breakfast keynote on Nov. 30, Ambassador Marco Sermoneta, Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, will share his insights about how Israel has addressed water management challenges.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability researchers use airborne technology to spot groundwater recharge sites

Recently, researchers from Stanford flew California skies on a kind of airborne treasure hunt. Probing hundreds of feet into the ground with electromagnetic signals, they were in search of liquid gold – water, or more precisely a place to capture and store it. … [Rosemary Knight, Ph.D., a researcher with the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability] just released a new study, confirming the airborne technology’s ability to locate what is now popularly called “paleo valleys.” They’re long, buried riverbed pathways created thousands of years ago by the movement of glaciers that once covered the Sierra. Filled with porous material, experts believe they could act like a high-speed express lane to carry diverted flood water deep into the aquifer.

Aquafornia news The Daily Independent

Groundwater Authority hears plans on pipelines that will get water into Indian Wells Valley

Plans are advancing for importing water into the Indian Wells Valley. At its Nov. 9 board meeting, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority heard a presentation on three proposed pipeline paths to get that water into IWV. The presentation was given by Provost & Pritchard, a consulting group IWVGA contracted to perform this imported water pipeline alignment study. Jeff Davis–principal engineer with Provost & Pritchard–presented the study to the IWVGA board. Davis told the board that while there were many paths they investigated for the pipeline, they’ve narrowed it down to three proposed paths which each carry their own positive and negative aspects. These three paths cross different regions of IWV, and are therefore titled the West Alignment, the Central Alignment, and the East Alignment.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Sacramento gas station fuel leak leads to contaminated soil, groundwater

Sacramento County officials on Friday said that two fuel tanks at a Sacramento gas station have leaked gasoline into soil and groundwater, though the risk to the general public is “very low.” The county said the leak happened with two underground fuel tanks at Bonfare Market and Gas Station, which is located at 2600 Rio Linda Boulevard. A third underground tank was not found to be faulty. The tanks have since been emptied and are offline, the county said. The issues stem from an initial report of a leak in February 2022, county spokesperson Samantha Mott said. One tank was immediately emptied and put out of service and an initial assessment did not reveal groundwater contamination. Later, an investigation as part of a clean-up plan found that gasoline contamination had migrated, exposing groundwater to contamination.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

San Joaquin Valley residents, growers vying for water in fourth year of drought

Noemi Barrera has spent four months without running water for herself and her four children, and is among many people in California living without it as wells across the state run dry.  …  Tooleville sits on a well that is now nearly unusable due to contamination from groundwater overdrilling. The state stepped in last year after the neighboring town Exeter refused to connect municipal water to the community’s residents. … Barrera grew up in the citrus-covered community but never faced this lack of running water until she brought Ruby home from the hospital and could not take a shower. And she is aware that many communities across the state’s vital Central Valley are staring down the same daily life, as their basins are depleted by unprecedented drought and ongoing groundwater pumping.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

State water agency wades into lawsuit to maintain its authority over groundwater plans

A lawsuit over groundwater plans in the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley is being closely watched as it could have implications for how the state’s groundwater mandate moves forward, according to a recent briefing on the issue at the Kern Groundwater Authority. At the Nov. 16 meeting, authority attorney Valerie Kincaid explained that the lawsuit, filed in 2020, seeks to have a court invalidate six groundwater plans in the Delta-Mendota Subbasin, which runs along the western edge of the valley from west of Fresno north to west of Modesto. The Department of Water Resources filed an amicus brief in the suit, which was bought by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Kincaid explained. An amicus, or friend of the court brief, can be filed by a group that has a strong interest in a case.

Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

Why America’s food-security crisis is a water-security crisis, too

There’s no healthcare screener for water insecurity. The issue is not even on most public health professionals’ radar… Most estimates put U.S. water insecurity at 2.2 million residents….Accurate data are essential to closing the water gap because food insecurity increases the probability of water insecurity…. You might think access to ample potable water is a basic human right. Legally, in the U.S., it isn’t (although California has taken a stab at making it so). Still, many Americans spend more than 12 percent of their income for water and sewer service.

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

SLO city signals interest in selling recycled water to Edna Valley

Could San Luis Obispo’s wastewater help save Edna Valley agriculture? That was the question of the night on Nov. 15 for the SLO City Council, which took a deep dive into the future of its recycled water program—including whether it wants to sell any “extra” water to Edna Valley to help neighboring farmers reduce their draw on groundwater. By a 4-1 consensus (with Councilmember Jan Marx dissenting), the City Council agreed that it’d be a good use of city resources to explore short-term sales of recycled water to the Edna Valley region.

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Aquafornia news JDSupra

Blog: Sustainability, water and recapture—understanding technology, environmental, and water rights concerns of aquifer storage and recovery

According to the National Center for Environmental Information, about 51 percent of the continental United States has been experiencing drought conditions in the summer of 2022. More than 70 percent of the western U.S. faces severe drought. The Colorado River basin supply is rapidly declining, and Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at critically low levels. Because of this, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has declared a Tier 2 water shortage on the Colorado River impacting seven western states that depend on water from the river. … In the U.S., more than 40 percent of the population relies on groundwater for its drinking water. Groundwater is also used for irrigation, domestic use, public use, and industrial and mining activities.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Hidden riverbeds may be key to recharging aquifers

Thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age, rivers flowed from giant glaciers in the Sierra Nevada down to the Central Valley, carving into rock and gouging channels at a time when the sea level was about 400 feet lower. When the glaciers retreated, meltwater coursed down and buried the river channels in sediment. These channels left by ancient rivers lie hidden beneath California’s Central Valley. Scientists call them paleovalleys, or incised valley fill deposits. As much as 100 feet deep and more than a mile wide in places, they are filled with coarse-grained sand, gravel and cobbles. Because these paleovalleys are highly permeable, scientists have pointed to them as ideal pathways for water to quickly percolate down and recharge groundwater.

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Aquafornia news Merced County Times

Water at center of dispute over Planada dairy expansion 

Some residents in Planada are calling on county officials to block a proposed expansion of a dairy. Merced County is currently in the process of deciding whether to allow the Hillcrest Dairy just north of the town to expand its herd from 8,050 cows to 9,750 cows. Some residents are saying that the expansion would make current problems with bad smells and flies worse, as well as threaten the community’s supply of groundwater. … The matter is still in the process of review, and has yet to come before the Board of Supervisors. But it will ultimately be their call as to whether or not the expansion with the dairy moves forward. 

Aquafornia news The Capistrano Dispatch

Santa Margarita Water District holds groundbreaking ceremony for Ranch Water Filtration Plant

The Santa Margarita Water District is getting started on its first drinking water treatment plant, which will be in Rancho Mission Viejo. … The [Ranch Water Filtration Plant] will treat groundwater from the San Juan Basin to supply some 1.6 billion gallons of drinking water per year to customers, according to SMWD Public Information officer Nicole Stanfield. Currently, all the district’s water is sourced from Northern California and the Colorado River. The plant, however, would establish a local source of drinking water.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

California’s first groundwater rules rub against SGMA

San Luis Obispo County has been restricting new groundwater wells in the Paso Robles subbasin for nearly a decade. Now county supervisors are hoping to tack on a carbon sequestration mandate.

Aquafornia news U.S. Geological Survey

Low-flying helicopter to survey the Coalinga and Pyramid Hills areas for groundwater research

Starting around November 17, 2022 and lasting up to a month, a helicopter towing a large hoop from a cable will make low-level flights over areas of the western San Joaquin Valley in Fresno, Kings, and Kern Counties near Coalinga and the Pyramid Hills, with limited surveying near Lost Hills. Residents of these areas may see a low-flying helicopter towing a large hoop hanging from a cable. USGS scientists will use the data to improve understanding of groundwater salinity and below-ground geology to better understand groundwater conditions near California’s oil fields. The helicopter will tow a sensor that resembles a large hula-hoop about 100-200 feet above the ground to measure small electromagnetic signals. 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Water rules add to challenges for farmers

Already grappling with drought, lower commodity prices and higher production costs, more farmers are feeling the added pinch of groundwater regulations as local agencies implement plans that include pumping limits and new fees to balance long-term groundwater resources as required by the state. … Regulations and fees by local agencies as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, affect farmers more directly this year, including farmers in Madera County. Madera County farmer Jay Mahil said groundwater sustainability agency fees that are part of his county property tax bill are “coming at a time when growers are receiving all-time low returns on commodity prices, and farm input costs have doubled.”

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Orland residents on dry wells getting connected to waterlines

The wheels keep turning in the large-scale Glenn County water project to help those with dry and drying wells connect to the city of Orland’s water lines. Over the course of the past year, the city has been working to connect those on wells within city limits to the source. Orland City Manager Pete Carr said the city has connected roughly 12 out of 34 of those households so far. Carr added that the city expects to have all 34 homes connected within the next couple of months. As part of the overall project, DWR has provided some additional funding to help the city drill a second well and put in an additional water tank to up the storage in anticipation of the new customers outside of the county, which consists of about 160 households.

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Aquafornia news Santa Monica Daily Press

Next generation water project comes online Thursday

Santa Monica has found itself on the cutting edge of modern water infrastructure in California, and the latest example of that innovation is SWIP, the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project (SWIP), four years in the making, that is set to open with a community celebration on Thursday morning, Nov. 17. The project features some key innovations: a massive, 1.5-million gallon stormwater harvesting tank that stores water prior to treatment (meaning the city is far less limited in the amount of water it can process during storm events); can simultaneously treat stormwater runoff and wastewater generated in Santa Monica; is enabled to provide water for irrigation, dual-piped buildings and groundwater replenishment; and is poised to convert to potable water supply if and when state regulations permit.

Aquafornia news Fox 10 - Phoenix

Arizona’s megadrought: The latest and what can we do to help

The federal government is expected to restrict Arizona’s water supply even more in the coming months due to the megadrought, heading into the new year. However, no one knows exactly what that will mean, but we do know the three-decade drought is shrinking the Colorado River with no end in sight. … Buckeye’s population is currently at about 75,000 but sits on 600 square miles of open land with plans to develop about every last inch, but satisfying thirsty mouths is a drop in the bucket compared to watering thirsty crops. .. Buckeye does a leg up, thanks to an underground aquifer up to a thousand feet deep. Every drop is closely monitored and replenished by law.

Aquafornia news Reuters

California tries to harness megastorm floods to ease crippling droughts

The land along the Arroyo Pasajero Creek, halfway between Sacramento and Los Angeles, is too dry to farm some years and dangerously flooded in others. Amid the cycles of wet and dry — both phenomena exacerbated by climate change — a coalition of local farmers and the nearby city of Huron are trying to turn former hemp and tomato fields into massive receptacles that can hold water as it percolates into the ground during wet years. This project and others like it across California’s Central Valley breadbasket aim to capture floodwaters that would otherwise rush out to the sea, or damage towns, cities and crops. … The project near Huron is one of about 340 recharge systems that have been proposed by water agencies in California – enough to store 2.2 million acre-feet by 2030 if they all are built …

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Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Homes and businesses cracked as wells tapped water in SLO

The last time San Luis Obispo ran critically short of water, the city pumped heavily from wells along Los Osos Valley Road. The aquifer was so overtaxed by residents and farmers that the ground sank, resulting multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements over damaged businesses and homes. Since the 1990s, the city has adopted a series of water measures — including rebates for more efficient fixtures, upgrading the sewer plant to deliver treated water to landscaping, and building a pipeline delivering water from Lake Nacimiento…. The city is currently leading the Groundwater Enhancement Project, which it described as “an initiative to to ensure responsible use of groundwater in the San Luis Obispo Valley Groundwater Basin.”

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

New satellite will see water’s big picture

By foot, horse, and canoe, European explorers centuries ago undertook years-long expeditions to document the length and breadth of major rivers. Today, satellites make the first pass of discovery. Though rivers meander and melting glaciers birth new lakes annually, the world’s major drainages have largely been mapped. Yet one fundamental dimension remains largely a mystery: the rise and fall of water bodies globally. Accurately measuring, at low-cost, the weekly changes in rivers, lakes, and wetlands would allow scientists to observe how much water moves through them. Land-based gauges do some of this work. But where gauges are scarce — Alaska, Africa, Asian headwaters — these numbers are inaccurate or unknown. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta sues makers of cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’

The state of California on Thursday sued the manufacturers of a class of chemicals known as “forever chemicals” that are found in a variety of consumer items including food packaging and cookware and are linked to cancer and other illnesses. The chemicals at the heart of the lawsuit are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS. They are resistant to environmental degradation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and hundreds of scientific studies. They have also been found in the bloodstreams of 98% of people tested, as well as in wildlife, fish, water — including rivers, lakes and nearshore waters — and soil.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Solar development in the San Joaquin Valley

Hundreds of thousands of acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland may come out of irrigated production in the coming decades to help balance overdrafted groundwater basins under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. At the same time, California needs to ramp up clean energy development to meet the goals of SB 100—and the valley has high solar potential. At a virtual event last week, PPIC Water Policy Center research fellow Andrew Ayres moderated a panel of experts and local stakeholders; they explored how solar development could help California meet multiple objectives while overcoming some challenges and delivering lasting benefits to the region.

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Aquafornia news WaterWorld

A shift in groundwater perspective

In California, the historically unmonitored and unregulated practice of groundwater pumping has led to declining groundwater levels in many basins across the state. These declining levels have also created pockets of displacement — some greater than 25 feet. … [I]nterferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), a satellite-based data analysis technique that measures changes in the earth’s surface over time with millimeter precision, … has not only enabled the DWR to develop its first-ever statewide subsidence monitoring system but it’s also bringing undetected subsidence to the surface, giving water managers a consistent source of ground-movement intelligence to help them improve groundwater management and bring stability to unstable ground.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Thursday Top of the Scroll: CVWD to slash aquifer replenishment to reduce Colorado River water use

The Coachella Valley Water District’s board of directors voted Tuesday to cut back on groundwater replenishment over the next few years to reduce the district’s Colorado River water use amid historic drought conditions. Groundwater replenishment adds water to the local aquifer, which provides nearly all of the drinking water and domestic water sources in the Coachella Valley.  Earlier this year, the Bureau of Reclamation called for the seven states that rely on the Colorado River —  Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — to use at least 15% less water next year from the drought-stricken river system, or between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet less. An acre-foot, about 326,000 gallons of water, is enough to supply about two households for a year.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Efforts to protect groundwater are tested by drought

Balancing the state’s groundwater supplies for a sustainable future may not be easy due to severe drought and ongoing economic challenges facing farmers. “We’ve got the lowest prices and highest production costs and the least-reliable water supply that we’ve had since I’ve been farming,” said Bill Diedrich of Firebaugh, who farms row crops and permanent crops on the west side in Madera and Fresno counties…. Diedrich, who relies on groundwater for irrigating farmland in Madera County and surface water for ground in Fresno County, said farming at this time “is very difficult.” He said the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which tasks local agencies to balance groundwater supplies in affected basins by 2040 and 2042, means farmland must come out of production.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

LA suit over Monsanto PCB water contamination clears first legal hurdle

A Los Angeles County judge on Monday advanced LA’s lawsuit against Monsanto over chemicals the city says have contaminated its water supply. Monsanto filed a demurrer — essentially a series of objections to the city’s complaint — arguing, among other things, that the city filed a public nuisance claim “for property located outside the city’s jurisdictional boundaries.” … The city sued Monsanto in March over polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a “probable” human carcinogen, and which were banned in 1979 but have nonetheless lingered in a variety of older products like paints, sealants and electrical equipment. According to LA’s complaint, and similar complaints filed by other California cities, rain causes those chemicals to seep into rivers, lakes and streams.

Aquafornia news California Water Impact Network

Blog: The difference between farmers and water privateers

Productive agriculture is essential to civilization, but water privateering – the seizure of public trust water for exorbitant private profit – is not. California’s water privateers often present themselves as farmers. But while they may use the water they’ve commandeered from state and federal water conveyance projects for industrial-scale agribusiness initiatives, they’re not farmers. They’re water brokers. If there’s money to be made in irrigating almonds or pistachios, they’ll do that. If there’s more money to be made by selling their allocated water to cities or other agribusiness operations, they’ll choose that option instead. It’s not about a devotion to agriculture – and certainly not about food security or land stewardship. 

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Water is essence of carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration garners a lot of attention from those interested in climate change and sustainable agriculture. The piece that should be added to much of the conversation, however, is the relationship of water and carbon. “We should be considering that carbon sequestration and plant growth doesn’t happen without water,” says Nick Goeser, Principal and co-founder of Carbon A List … Goeser, who co-founded Carbon A List with Christophe Jospe, adds that raising public awareness that carbon sequestration and sustainability don’t happen without water is important.

Aquafornia news Stanford News

New research: Beaver dams buffer rivers against climate extremes

As climate change worsens water quality and threatens ecosystems, the famous dams of beavers may help lessen the damage. That is the conclusion of a new study by Stanford University scientists and colleagues, publishing Nov. 8 in Nature Communications. The research reveals that when it comes to water quality in mountain watersheds, beaver dams can have a far greater influence than climate-driven, seasonal extremes in precipitation. The wooden barriers raise water levels upstream, diverting water into surrounding soils and secondary waterways, collectively called a riparian zone. These zones act like filters, straining out excess nutrients and contaminants before water re-enters the main channel downstream.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

NASA prepares mission to measure all of Earth’s water as multi-year drought bears down on California

With a multi-year drought bearing down on California and the West, there’s an intense focus on nearly every drop of water. But in a few weeks, we may begin to get a history making look at where that water is and where it’s going. Not just here, but around the entire planet. … Using technology, including a sophisticated form of radar, the satellite will survey and measure nearly all the water on the Earth’s surface, including lakes, rivers, reservoirs and the ocean itself. … Experts believe understanding flood patterns could help us recover and store valuable water that’s currently being lost. Perhaps diverting it into underground aquifers or reservoirs. 

Aquafornia news Communications Earth & Environment

New research: International demand for food and services drives environmental footprints of pesticide use

Over the past five decades, modern agriculture, driven by the Green Revolution, has achieved unprecedented high yields through irrigation and the extensive use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. Unfortunately, this strategy of intensive food production is not currently sustainable because it deteriorates terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, depletes water resources, and contributes towards climate change. To date, efforts to quantify the environmental footprints of global production and consumption have covered a wide range of indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, biodiversity, nitrogen pollution, acidification, land use, and others, but they have largely missed to represent the environmental pressures exerted by pesticide use. 

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Butte County Supervisors to discuss Infrastructure Master Plan

The Butte County Board of Supervisors will be unveiling, discussing and likely approving its 2023 Infrastructure Master Plan as compiled by its Public Works Department at its meeting Tuesday. Each year the board goes through this process to determine infrastructure needs. … Presentations will be provided regarding the California drought as well as an update on activities by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

How can California boost its water supply?

Over and over again, drought launches California into a familiar scramble to provide enough water. Cities and towns call for conservation and brace for shortages. Growers fallow fields and ranchers sell cows. And thousands of people discover that they can’t squeeze another drop from their wells. So where can California get enough water to survive the latest dry stretch — and the next one, and the next? Can it pump more water from the salty Pacific Ocean? Treat waste flushed down toilets and washed down drains? Capture runoff that flows off streets into storm drains? Tow Antarctic icebergs to Los Angeles? The Newsom administration unveiled a roadmap for bolstering the state water supply.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Department of the Interior

News release: Assistant Secretary Trujillo highlights Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments for drought resilience in California

Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo today wrapped a visit to California where she highlighted historic investments being made through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to boost water infrastructure and tackle western drought. On Thursday, Assistant Secretary Trujillo joined state and local partners to commemorate the Water Replenishment District (WRD)’s 60 years of using recycled water for groundwater replenishment and to celebrate a $15.4 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for WRD’s Groundwater Reliability Improvement Program to help protect groundwater resources for 4 million people in the region. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Water researcher highlights “disappearing” groundwater

For the past 20 years, two small satellites orbiting 250 miles above Earth have tracked a stark reality about the nation’s groundwater supplies, including across the parched Colorado River Basin: The water underground is vanishing. The NASA satellites began gathering data in 2002. Since then, Colorado River Basin groundwater has depleted much faster than water storage in the nation’s two largest reservoirs, according to research that underscores concerns about the increasingly tight water supply in the drought-stricken West. … [H]ydrologist Jay Famiglietti … highlighted data that showed groundwater depleting at six and a half times the rate of water storage in Lake Powell and Lake Mead between 2002 and 2014…. Famiglietti urged more consideration of groundwater depletion in discussions over the future of the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news Sentinel Colorado

Search for solutions drives race to save Utah salt flats

In the Utah desert, a treeless expanse of pristine white salt crystals has long lured daredevil speed racers, filmmakers and social media-obsessed tourists. It’s so flat that on certain days, visitors swear they can see the curvature of the earth. … Research has time and again shown that the briny water in the aquifer below the flats is depleting faster than nature can replenish it. As nearby groundwater replaces the mineral-rich brine, evaporation yields less salt than historic cycles of flooding and evaporation left on the landscape.

Aquafornia news Eos

Reaching new levels in groundwater monitoring

Climate change is contributing to severe droughts in the southwest United States and elsewhere, increasing the afflicted areas’ dependence on groundwater. In California, for instance, groundwater contributes up to 60% of the state’s total water supply in dry years. Monitoring subterranean aquifers is crucial to using their water efficiently—and ensuring the supply doesn’t run dry. But monitoring groundwater isn’t easy. Traditionally, an aquifer’s water levels are measured using wells: Hydrologists drill into the ground and measure the pore pressure at depth, a measurement from which they infer the amount of water trapped in sediments.

Aquafornia news U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

News release: EPA awards California $609 million in historic federal funding to improve water quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced funding to the State of California for water infrastructure improvements under the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). California has been awarded more than $609 million in capitalization grants through the State Revolving Funds (SRFs) to supplement the state’s annual base SRF funding of $144 million. The announcement was made at the Keyes Community Services District (Keyes CSD), a community water system that was recently awarded $10.4 million in SRF loan forgiveness funding, to improve drinking water quality and compliance at four groundwater wells serving several small, disadvantaged communities in the area.

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Aquafornia news KSBW 8 - Monterey

Water survey helicopters scheduled to fly over the Central Coast

You may see low-flying helicopters over the Central Coast. Do not be alarmed, the California Department of Water Resources will be using helicopters to do a survey of groundwater basins. They will be doing electromagnetic surveys to support drought response. During the surveys, a low-flying helicopter tows a large hoop with scientific equipment approximately 100 feet above the ground. The schedule and map of where the surveys can be found here. … Survey data creates an image of the subsurface down to a depth of about 1,000 feet below the ground surface and provides information about large-scale aquifer structures and geology.

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Opinion: Busting the myth of limitless groundwater

Facing another drought year and the reality that inadequate groundwater management is leading to a race to the bottom, on Oct. 4, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors took a critical step toward sustainable water management by placing a temporary pause on issuance of new well permits. … Over the next six months, while the pause is in place, the county will develop science-based rules to govern groundwater well permits to ensure impacts of pumping on neighboring streams and downstream users are accounted for and addressed. All Sonoma County residents have a stake in improving groundwater management. This is the county’s chance to change course and ensure we are better prepared for a warmer future.
-Written by Sean Bothwell, executive director for California Coastkeeper Alliance; and Don McEnhill, executive director of Russian Riverkeeper.

Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

Friends of Eel River sues Humboldt County over groundwater pumping in lower Eel River

A local environmental group is suing the county in order to get it to better regulate groundwater in the lower Eel River. Friends of the Eel River filed a civil suit against Humboldt County on Thursday in Humboldt County Superior Court “to secure protection for the public trust values at risk when groundwater pumping depletes surface flows in the Lower Eel River,” according to a release from the group. … Friends of the Eel River sent the county a letter in mid-August threatening legal action if it failed to take the public trust doctrine into account when deciding how to allocate water from the Eel River.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

In southern France, drought, rising seas threaten traditions

For centuries people from across the region have observed Camarguaise bull festivities in the Rhone delta, where the Rhone river and the Mediterranean Sea meet. But now the tradition is under threat by rising sea levels, heat waves and droughts which are making water sources salty and lands infertile. At the same time, there are efforts by authorities to preserve more land, leaving less for bulls to graze. … During summers plagued by high temperatures and diminished rainfall, the sea water can reach up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the Rhone river. During a heat wave in August this year, the Raynaud family’s water pump in the Petite Rhone, an offshoot of the main river, began pumping salt water. 

Aquafornia news Western Water

As climate change erodes Western snowpacks, one watershed tries a ’supershed approach’ to shield its water supply

The foundation of California’s water supply and the catalyst for the state’s 20th century population and economic growth is cracking. More exactly, it’s disappearing. Climate change is eroding the mountain snowpack that has traditionally melted in the spring and summer to fill rivers and reservoirs across the West. … California officials expect the state could lose 10 percent of its water supply by 2040 … Hoping to get ahead of that dismal forecast, managers of a major Sierra Nevada watershed east of Sacramento are replumbing their water systems to better handle bursts of rain instead of trickling snowmelt. Their “Supershed Approach” to replace the loss of the once-reliable snowmelt calls for climate adaptation projects that stretch from the headwaters of the American River west of Lake Tahoe, to the foothills and down to the valley floor in Sacramento.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

Agriculture remains opposed to new Paso Robles basin ordinance

Local agricultural groups continue to speak out against a new proposed county ordinance regulating water use from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, which will go before the SLO County Planning Commission on Oct. 28. The new ordinance, championed by a majority of the Board of Supervisors, would lift a basinwide moratorium on groundwater pumping by giving all property owners up to 25 acre-feet per year of exempted water use. The current exemption is 5 acre-feet per year. After months of negotiating with county officials and dissecting its environmental impact report, SLO County farming groups remain adamantly opposed to the ordinance, claiming that it will exacerbate the basin’s overdraft and add “cumbersome” new layers of regulation on agriculture.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news Forbes

Drought expands east to the Mississippi river, where it’s really messing things up

Footprints, human and animal, dot stretches of the Mississippi River that have been underwater for as long as people remember, and eight barges have run aground this year. Rain has been scarce, with little prospect for more. Drought’s deadly fingers have moved east, from the dried-up wells of California’s Central Valley and into the American Midwest, where much of America’s food is grown, and even farther, into the Southeast. Its tentacles have parched parts of America’s most important river and now threaten a majority of the country — 52.7% by the U.S. Drought Monitor’s count, and 146 million people, 12 million more than a mere week ago. It’s the deepest national drought since 2012, and if nothing changes it’ll outpace that benchmark soon.

Related articles: 

Could Virtual Networks Solve Drinking Water Woes for California’s Isolated, Disadvantaged Communities?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: UCLA pilot project uses high-tech gear in LA to remotely run clean-water systems for small communities in Central California's Salinas Valley

UCLA’s remote water treatment systems are providing safe tap water to three disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley. A pilot program in the Salinas Valley run remotely out of Los Angeles is offering a test case for how California could provide clean drinking water for isolated rural communities plagued by contaminated groundwater that lack the financial means or expertise to connect to a larger water system.

As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: More than half of the most critically overdrawn basins, mainly in the San Joaquin Valley, are racing against a July deadline to retool their plans and avoid state intervention

A field in Kern County is irrigated by sprinkler.Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance. It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

Northern California Tour 2022
Field Trip - October 12-14

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833
Tour Nick Gray

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2022
Field Trip - November 2-3

This tour traveled along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720

Join Online Groundwater Short Course Starting May 12
Check out our monthly events calendar for details on this course and other water events in California

Photo of groundwater gushing into a percolation basin An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.

The class, offered by University of California, Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 12, 19, 26 and June 2, 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.

New EPA Regional Administrator Tackles Water Needs with a Wealth of Experience and $1 Billion in Federal Funding
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Martha Guzman says surge of federal dollars offers 'greatest opportunity' to address longstanding water needs, including for tribes & disadvantaged communities in EPA Region 9

EPA Region 9 Administrator Martha Guzman.Martha Guzman recalls those awful days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible time.”

She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely greatest opportunity.”

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

Central Valley Tour participants at a dam.This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

This tour guided participants on a virtual exploration of the Sacramento River and its tributaries and learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law By Gary Pitzer

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Groundwater Management Requirements Spark Innovative Approaches to Reach Sustainability
A 'Craigslist' for water, flooding farms to feed the aquifer, and turning farmland into habitat to aid wildlife and groundwater

An example of a water-trading platform in Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County.

The San Joaquin Valley has a big hill to climb in reaching groundwater sustainability. Driven by the need to keep using water to irrigate the nation’s breadbasket while complying with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, people throughout the valley are looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to manage and use groundwater more wisely. Here are three examples.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Explainer: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: The Law, The Judge And The Enforcer

The Resource

A groundwater pump in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater provides about 40 percent of the water in California for urban, rural and agricultural needs in typical years, and as much as 60 percent in dry years when surface water supplies are low. But in many areas of the state, groundwater is being extracted faster than it can be replenished through natural or artificial means.

In the Heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Try to Find Their Balance
WESTERN WATER SPECIAL REPORT: Agencies in Fresno, Tulare counties pursue different approaches to address overdraft and meet requirements of California’s groundwater law

Flooding permanent crops seasonally, such as this vineyard at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, is one innovative strategy to recharge aquifers.Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.


Water Leaders Alumni: Stay In Touch With Each Other and The Foundation
Join LinkedIn alumni group for networking, program news and more!

Since 1997, more than 430 engineers, farmers, environmentalists, lawyers, and others have graduated from our William R. Gianelli Water Leaders program. We’ve developed a new alumni network webpage to help program participants connect and keep in touch.


Join Online Groundwater Short Course Starting May 21st
See our events calendar for details & register today!

An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.

The class, offered by UC Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 21 and 28, June 4, 18, and 25 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

With Sustainability Plans Filed, Groundwater Agencies Now Must Figure Out How To Pay For Them
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's Prop. 218 taxpayer law and local politics could complicate efforts to finance groundwater improvement projects

A groundwater monitoring well in Colusa County, north of Sacramento. The bill is coming due, literally, to protect and restore groundwater in California.

Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in California spent months putting together plans to show how they will achieve balance in about 20 years.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

Foundation Event

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Virtual Workshop Occurred Afternoons of April 22-23

Our Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the workshop was held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Douglas E. Beeman

Water Resource Innovation, Hard-Earned Lessons and Colorado River Challenges — Western Water Year in Review
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-Our 2019 articles spanned the gamut from groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency to collaboration and innovation

Smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire as viewed from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River. 

These were among the issues Western Water explored in 2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed them.

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law Jenn Bowles Nick Gray

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond

The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water. 

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817

Agenda Posted for Oct. 30 Water Summit; Join the Waitlist!
Keynote speakers include California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Scripps Atmospheric River Researcher Marty Ralph

A diverse roster of top policymakers and water experts are on the agenda for the Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit. The conference, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, will feature compelling conversations reflecting on upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

Tickets for the Water Summit are sold out, but by joining the waitlist we can let you know when spaces open via cancellations.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Gary Pitzer

Recharging Depleted Aquifers No Easy Task, But It’s Key To California’s Water Supply Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A UC Berkeley symposium explores approaches and challenges to managed aquifer recharge around the West

A water recharge basin in Southern California's Coachella Valley. To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy task.

Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though, landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally recharged.


Water Summit Panel to Focus on Nexus of Fire and Water in the Wildland-Urban Interface
Oct. 30 Event Will Feature the Latest on Policy, Planning and Management from Key Stakeholders, Experts

California experienced one of the most deadly and destructive wildfire years on record in 2018, with several major fires occurring in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). These areas, where communities are in close proximity to undeveloped land at high risk of wildfire, have felt devastating effects of these disasters, including direct impacts to water infrastructure and supplies.

One panel at our 2019 Water Summit Oct. 30 in Sacramento will feature speakers from water agencies who came face-to-face with two major fires: The Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise in Northern California, and the Woolsey Fire in the Southern California coastal mountains. They’ll talk about their experiences and what lessons they learned. 

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Often Short of Water, California’s Southern Central Coast Builds Toward A Drought-Proof Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Water agencies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo counties look to seawater, recycled water to protect against water shortages

The spillway at Lake Cachuma in central Santa Barbara County. Drought in 2016 plunged its storage to about 8 percent of capacity.The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.

Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.


Scripps Scientist Marty Ralph to Discuss Atmospheric Rivers in Opening Keynote at Water Summit
Early bird pricing ends today for the 2019 Water Summit “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning"

Oroville Dam spillway emergencyAtmospheric rivers, the narrow bands of moisture that ferry precipitation across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast, are necessary to keep California’s water reservoirs full.

However, some of them are dangerous because the extreme rainfall and wind can cause catastrophic flooding and damage, much like what happened in 2017 with Oroville Dam’s spillway.

Learn the latest about atmospheric river research and forecasting at our 2019 Water Summit on Oct. 30 in Sacramento, where prominent research meteorologist Marty Ralph will give the opening keynote.


Oct. 30 Water Summit to Feature Panel About Key Groundwater Issues as SGMA Deadline Approaches
Attend and learn how water managers are working toward sustainable groundwater management in California

With a key deadline for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in January, one of the featured panels at our Oct. 30th  Water Summit will focus on how regions around California are crafting groundwater sustainability plans and working on innovative ways to fill aquifers.

The theme for this year’s Water Summit, “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflects critical upcoming events in California water, including the imminent Jan. 31, 2020 deadline for groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in high- and medium-priority basins.


Stay Up To Date With Upcoming Groundwater Events Via Our Calendar
We track relevant tours, symposia, conferences and more for your convenience

Our event calendar is an excellent resource for keeping up with water events in California and the West.

Groundwater is top of mind for many water managers as they prepare to meet next January’s deadline for submitting sustainability plans required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. We have several upcoming featured events listed on our calendar that focus on a variety of relevant groundwater topics:


Registration Now Open for the 36th Annual Water Summit; Take Advantage of Early Bird Discount by Registering Today
Join us Oct. 30 for key conversations on water in California and the West

Registration opens today for the Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to water management as California and the West weather intensified flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss event, visit our Water Summit event page.

Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee, materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches with key people in the water world.

Western Water California Water Map

Your Don’t-Miss Roundup of Summer Reading From Western Water

Dear Western Water reader, 

Clockwise, from top: Lake Powell, on a drought-stressed Colorado River; Subsidence-affected bridge over the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley;  A homeless camp along the Sacramento River near Old Town Sacramento; Water from a desalination plant in Southern California.Summer is a good time to take a break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting a chance to do plenty of that this July.

But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned for later this year, we want to help you catch up on Western Water stories from the first half of this year that you might have missed. 


2019 Water Summit Theme Announced – Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning
Join us October 30 in Sacramento for our premier annual event

Sacramento RiverOur 36th annual Water Summit, happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on issues affecting water across California and the West.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

Imported Water Built Southern California; Now Santa Monica Aims To Wean Itself Off That Supply
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Santa Monica is tapping groundwater, rainwater and tighter consumption rules to bring local supply and demand into balance

The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) treats dry weather urban runoff to remove pollutants such as sediment, oil, grease, and pathogens for nonpotable use.Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.

Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.

Key California Ag Region Ponders What’s Next After Voters Spurn Bond to Fix Sinking Friant-Kern Canal
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Subsidence chokes off up to 60% of canal’s capacity to move water to aid San Joaquin Valley farms and depleted groundwater basins

Water is up to the bottom of a bridge crossing the Friant-Kern Canal due to subsidence caused by overpumping of groundwater. The whims of political fate decided in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that have potential applications statewide.

Western Water California Water Map Layperson's Guide to the State Water Project Gary Pitzer

As He Steps Aside, Tim Quinn Talks About ‘Adversarialists,’ Collaboration and Hope For Solving the State’s Tough Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tim Quinn, retiring executive director of Association of California Water Agencies

ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn  with a report produced by Association of California Water Agencies on  sustainable groundwater management.  (Source:  Association of California Water Agencies)In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.

Western Water Klamath River Watershed Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

California Leans Heavily on its Groundwater, But Will a Court Decision Tip the Scales Against More Pumping?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Pumping near the Scott River in Siskiyou County sparks appellate court ruling extending public trust doctrine to groundwater connected to rivers

Scott River, in Siskiyou County. In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.

Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.

Northern California Tour 2019
Field Trip - October 2-4

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
One-day workshop included optional groundwater tour

One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resources.

 Optional Groundwater Tour

On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater experts Thomas Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Vexed by Salt And Nitrates In Central Valley Groundwater, Regulators Turn To Unusual Coalition For Solutions
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Left unaddressed, salts and nitrates could render farmland unsuitable for crops and family well water undrinkable

An evaporation pond in Kings County, in the central San Joaquin Valley, with salt encrusted on the soil. More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its authors are not who you might expect.

An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Could the Arizona Desert Offer California and the West a Guide to Solving Groundwater Problems?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Environmental Defense Fund report highlights strategies from Phoenix and elsewhere for managing demands on groundwater

Skyline of Phoenix, ArizonaAs California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.

Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Novel Effort to Aid Groundwater on California’s Central Coast Could Help Other Depleted Basins
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Michael Kiparsky, director of UC Berkeley's Wheeler Water Institute, explains Pajaro Valley groundwater recharge pilot project

Michael KiparskySpurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.

Along the way, an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects its original intent.


Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Western Water California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.

Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Northern California Tour 2018

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway. 


San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2018

Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

Fishery worker capturing a fish in the San Joaquin River.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Replenishment

Groundwater replenishment happens through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water conservation, recycled water, desalination and water transfers.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Enhancing California’s Water Supply: The Drive for New Storage
Spring 2017

One of the wettest years in California history that ended a record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage to be built above and below ground.

In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they are needed.

Aquapedia background


Snowmelt and runoff near the California Department of Water Resources snow survey site in the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento.Runoff is the water that is pulled by gravity across land’s surface, replenishing groundwater and surface water as it percolates into an aquifer or moves into a river, stream or watershed.

Aquapedia background


Sinkholes are caused by erosion of rocks beneath soil’s surface. Groundwater dissolves soft rocks such as gypsum, salt and limestone, leaving gaps in the originally solid structure. This is exacerbated when water is acidic from contact with carbon dioxide or acid rain. Even humidity can play a major role in destabilizing water underground. 

Aquapedia background


Irrigation is the artificial supply of water to grow crops or plants. Obtained from either surface or groundwater, it optimizes agricultural production when the amount of rain and where it falls is insufficient. Different irrigation systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in practical use are often combined. Much of the agriculture in California and the West relies on irrigation. 

Aquapedia background


The United States Geographical Survey (USGS) defines freshwater as containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids. However, 500 milligrams per liter is usually the cutoff for municipal and commercial use. Most of the Earth’s water is saline, 97.5 percent with only 2.5 percent fresh.

Aquapedia background


Springs are where groundwater becomes surface water, acting as openings where subsurface water can discharge onto the ground or directly into other water bodies. They can also be considered the consequence of an overflowing aquifer. As a result, springs often serve as headwaters to streams.

Aquapedia background

Potable Water

Photo of drinking water filling a glass over the kitchen sink. Potable water, also known as drinking water, comes from surface and ground sources and is treated to levels that that meet state and federal standards for consumption.

Water from natural sources is treated for microorganisms, bacteria, toxic chemicals, viruses and fecal matter. Drinking raw, untreated water can cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or fever.


Discover Hidden World of Subsidence on Upcoming Groundwater Tour
Early bird discount expires Tuesday

Extensometers are among the most valuable devices hydrogeologists use to measure subsidence, but most people – even water professionals – have never seen one. They are sensitive and carefully calibrated, so they are kept under lock and key and are often in remote locations on private property.

During our California Groundwater Tour Oct. 5-6, you will see two types of extensometers used by the California Department of Water Resources to monitor changes in elevation caused by groundwater overdraft.

Aquapedia background

Mojave River

Flowing into the heart of the Mojave Desert, the Mojave River exists mostly underground. Surface channels are usually dry absent occasional groundwater surfacing and flooding from extreme weather events like El Niño

Aquapedia background


Alluvium generally refers to the clay, silt, sand and gravel that are deposited by a stream, creek or other water body.  Alluvium is found around deltas and rivers, frequently making soils very fertile. Alternatively, “colluvium” refers to the accumulation at the base of hills, brought there from runoff (as opposed to a water body). The Oxnard Plain in Ventura County is a visible alluvial plain, where floodplains have drifted over time due to gradual deposits of alluvium, a feature also present in Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

A man watches as a groundwater pump pours water onto a field in Northern California.A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.”

Western Water Magazine

The View From Above: The Promise of Remote Sensing
March/April 2015

This issue looks at remote sensing applications and how satellite information enables analysts to get a better understanding of snowpack, how much water a plant actually uses, groundwater levels, levee stability and more.


The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
A Handbook to Understanding and Implementing the Law

This handbook provides crucial background information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The handbook also includes a section on options for new governance.


Southern California Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

Diamond Valley Lake. Photo by MWD

This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled through Inland Southern California to learn about the region’s efforts in groundwater management, recycled water and other drought-proofing measures.


Groundwater Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled from the Sacramento region to Napa Valley to view sites that explore groundwater issues. Topics  included groundwater quality, overdraft and subsidence, agricultural use, wells, and regional management efforts.


Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.

Western Water Magazine

Overdrawn at the Bank: Managing California’s Groundwater
January/February 2014

This printed issue of Western Water looks at California groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by local, regional and state management. For more background information on groundwater please refer to the Founda­tion’s Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.

Western Water Magazine

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater management and the extent to which stakeholders believe more efforts are needed to preserve and restore the resource.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - Paperback

The story of water is the story of California. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - hardbound

The story of California is the story of water. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.

Western Water Magazine

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Quality: A Cause for Concern?
September/October 2012

This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

Western Water Magazine

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater banking, a water management strategy with appreciable benefits but not without challenges and controversy.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Western Water Magazine

Changing the Status Quo: The 2009 Water Package
January/February 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater monitoring and the proposed water bond.

Western Water Magazine

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines desalination – an issue that is marked by great optimism and controversy – and the expected role it might play as an alternative water supply strategy.

Western Water Magazine

A Tale of Two Rivers: The Russian and the Santa Ana
May/June 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines the Russian and Santa Ana rivers – areas with ongoing issues not dissimilar to the rest of the state – managing supplies within a lingering drought, improving water quality and revitalizing and restoring the vestiges of the native past.

Western Water Magazine

Dealing with the ‘D’ Word: The Response to Drought
November/December 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines California’s drought – its impact on water users in the urban and agricultural sector and the steps being taken to prepare for another dry year should it arrive.

Western Water Magazine

An Expanded Role for Groundwater Storage
September/October 2007

Statewide, groundwater provides about 30 percent of California’s water supply, with some regions more dependent on it than others. In drier years, groundwater provides a higher percentage of the water supply. Groundwater is less known than surface water but no less important. Its potential for helping to meet the state’s growing water demand has spurred greater attention toward gaining a better understanding of its overall value. This issue of Western Water examines groundwater storage and its increasing importance in California’s future water policy.

Western Water Magazine

California Groundwater: Managing A Hidden Resource
July/August 2003

This issue of Western Water examines the issue of California groundwater management, in light of recent attention focused on the subject through legislative actions and the release of the draft Bulletin 118. In addition to providing an overview of groundwater and management options, it offers a glimpse of what the future may hold and some background information on groundwater hydrology and law.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.


Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.


Go With the Flow: A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Message

This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12 about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.

Maps & Posters Groundwater Education Bundle

California Groundwater Map
Redesigned in 2017

California Groundwater poster map

Fashioned after the popular California Water Map, this 24×36 inch poster was extensively re-designed in 2017 to better illustrate the value and use of groundwater in California, the main types of aquifers, and the connection between groundwater and surface water.

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge and industrial uses.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing
Updated 2005

The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides background information on water rights, types of transfers and critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in 1996, the 2005 version offers expanded information on groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River transfers and the role of private companies in California’s developing water market. 

Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.


Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.


Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 


Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water
Published 2006

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada. It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and today’s water supply challenges.

Aquapedia background

Seawater Intrusion

Seawater intrusion can harm groundwater quality in a variety of places, both coastal and inland, throughout California.

Along the coast, seawater intrusion into aquifers is connected to overdrafting of groundwater. Additionally, in the interior, groundwater pumping can draw up salty water from ancient seawater isolated in subsurface sediments.

Aquapedia background California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater

Groundwater Pollutants

barrel half-buried in the ground, posing a threat to groundwater.

The natural quality of groundwater in California depends on the surrounding geology and on the source of water that recharges the aquifer.

Aquapedia background


Overdraft occurs when, over a period of years, more water is pumped from a groundwater basin than is replaced from all sources – such as rainfall, irrigation water, streams fed by mountain runoff and intentional recharge. [See also Hydrologic Cycle.]

While many of its individual aquifers are not overdrafted, California as a whole uses more groundwater than is replaced.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Treatment

The treatment of groundwater— the primary source of drinking water and irrigation water in many parts of the United States — varies from community to community, and even from well to well within a city depending on what contaminants the water contains.

In California, one-half of the state’s population drinks water drawn from underground sources [the remainder is provided by surface water].

Groundwater Management

Groundwater pump in California's Central ValleyGroundwater management is recognized as critical to supporting the long-term viability of California’s aquifers and protecting the nearby surface waters that are connected to groundwater.

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Groundwater Legislation

California has considered, but not implemented, a comprehensive groundwater strategy many times over the last century.

One hundred years ago, the California Conservation Commission considered adding  groundwater regulation into the Water Commission Act of 1913.  After hearings were held, it was decided to leave groundwater rights out of the Water Code.

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Groundwater Law

California, like most arid Western states, has a complex system of surface water rights that accounts for nearly all of the water in rivers and streams.

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Groundwater Banking

An aerial view of a groundwater bank

Groundwater banking is a process of diverting floodwaters or other surface water into an aquifer where it can be stored until it is needed later. In a twist of fate, the space made available by emptying some aquifers opened the door for the banking activities used so extensively today.

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Groundwater Adjudication

When multiple parties withdraw water from the same aquifer, groundwater pumpers can ask the court to adjudicate, or hear arguments for and against, to better define the rights that various entities have to use groundwater resources. This is known as  groundwater adjudication. [See also California water rights and Groundwater Law.]

Aquapedia background Layperson's Guide to Groundwater California Groundwater Map


Groundwater pump in a Northern California farm field.

California’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.

Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply.

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Conjunctive Use

Conjunctive use is a catch-phrase for coordinated use of surface water and groundwater— literally going with the flow to maximize sufficient yield.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

For something so largely hidden from view, groundwater is an important and controversial part of California’s water supply picture. How it should be managed and whether it becomes part of overarching state regulation is a topic of strong debate.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

In early June, environmentalists and Delta water agencies sued the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Kern County Water Agency (KCWA) over the validity of the transfer of the Kern Water Bank, a huge underground reservoir that supplies water to farms and cities locally and outside the area. The suit, which culminates a decade-long controversy involving multiple issues of state and local jurisdictional authority, has put the spotlight on groundwater banking – an important but controversial water management practice in many areas of California.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

An Expanded Role for Groundwater Storage
September/October 2007

Groundwater, out of sight and out of mind to most people, is taking on an increased role in California’s water future.

Often overlooked and misunderstood, groundwater’s profile is being elevated as various scenarios combine to cloud the water supply outlook. A dry 2006-2007 water year (downtown Los Angeles received a record low amount of rain), crisis conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the mounting evidence of climate change have invigorated efforts to further utilize aquifers as a reliable source of water supply.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

California Groundwater: Managing A Hidden Resource
Jul/Aug 2003

When you drink the water, remember the spring. – Chinese proverb

Water is everywhere. Viewed from outer space, the Earth radiates a blue glow from the oceans that dominate its surface. Atop the sea and land, huge clouds of water vapor swirl around the globe, propelling the weather system that sustains life. Along the way, water, which an ancient sage called “the noblest of elements,” transforms from vapor to liquid and to solid form as it falls from the atmosphere to the surface, trickles below ground and ultimately returns skyward.

Western Water Excerpt Sue McClurgRita Schmidt Sudman

Conjunctive Use: Banking for a Dry Day
July/Aug 2001

Traditionally treated as two separate resources, surface water and groundwater are increasingly linked in California as water leaders search for a way to close the gap between water demand and water supply. Although some water districts have coordinated use of surface water and groundwater for years, conjunctive use has become the catchphrase when it comes to developing additional water supply for the 21st century.